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Flip Flop Season

Y’all Massachusettsans are crazy! It eked above 40 degrees today and I spotted the first flip flops of the season on a kid walking home from school. It’s as sure of a sign of spring as the robins that have been invading the hill the past couple days. In fact, I saw my first robin the same day as the snowstorm that never came – clearly they knew something the meteorologists didn’t! I haven’t gone so far as to get my sandals out of storage, but I did take advantage of the beautiful day to work outside and in the greenhouse all day. We’re supposed to get one more cold front coming through (on my birthday of course), and then it’s all 40s and blue skies from there. I haven’t been this excited for 40s since college!

With a lovely white blanket still on the fields, it’s looking like another delayed start to the season. It’s a shame too – with my beds already made from last year, I had lofty plans to seed peas a week ago…but I’m pretty sure they won’t germinate in snow! Regardless, it’s shaping up to be another fantastic year. With the newly minted CSA selling out in 5 days, I’m launching an alternative called a CSA Card that can be used at both the Monday pickups and the Wednesday Grafton Market. I tested it out on a few regulars last season and they loved it, as do I. It’s a super-flexible way to support the farm. The upfront expenses of seeds, supplies, and labor early in the season are steep, while veggies are a labor of love and patience. Without the revenue from pre-selling CSA shares and now CSA Cards, we don’t start earning anything back until the year is half over.

The CSA Card is essentially a gift card that you purchase at the start of the season and then use throughout the season. In return for investing in your health and the farm, you get a bonus added to your card. Plus you make my day, which is all the reward you really need right?

It’s all automated – it uses the same card reader that allows me to take credit card on my phone – so you get receipts emailed to you every time it’s used. And don’t worry, you’ll never forget it because I keep them on a keychain in my cash box. Easy peasy! Questions? Reply to this email. Ready to order? You can choose from the 3 levels ($300, $450, and $600) directly on the website!

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In Like a Lion

Wow, what a couple weeks! 70s in February, 70 MPH winds in March. You never know what’s going to happen next! Actually, I’m looking into the future now and there is delicious, handmade sausage in it. And chocolates? Jeff has clearly been busy in the kitchen as he has 14 different sausages for sale, plus lots of other goodies. As an added bonus, for meat customers only, we will have fresh eggs for sale…assuming the ladies survived this wind!

So, it seems like the CSA was a hit! I was hoping to get 5 people signed up in the first 5 days. How about 35?! And a few people on the wait list to boot. If you think you signed up but haven’t heard back from me, please let me know. CSA checks have started to roll in, just in time to help pay some big early season bills. This morning I put in a $2,500+ supplies order, to go along with over $1,200 in seeds ordered in January, and a $1,500 equipment order last week. The tractor needs to be split (again) and fixed and then comes almost 4 full months of work before we make our first sale in mid-June. Farming certainly is a funny business, so you can see why I’m so appreciative to all who took the leap and joined the CSA!

That CSA boat may have sailed, but fear not, there will be another boat that will launch as soon as I put the finishing touches on it. It will be a “CSA Card” and can be used at our regularly Monday pickups or the Grafton Market on Wednesdays. I did a test run with 5 customers last season, and they loved it! Stay tuned.

I’ve had a hard time adjusting to non-80s weather and not being in the pool with the little one, but fortunately February was quite kind to this wannabe snowbird. March seems like it may have a little more ‘tude, just like my 20 month old (going on 16). I’m itching to get my hands in the dirt, but I’ll have to settle for some potting soil as soon as it arrives next week. Onions will be first to be seeded, with so much more to follow. Can’t wait!

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Dreams of Weeding and Big Announcement

Hey y’all,

We’re back! And not just back in your inbox – we just returned from an epic vacation, our first in 5 years. Jenni had a veterinary conference in Orlando for the first week, while my mom and I chased Paddy Rose around the pool. We then met up with my father-in-law and ventured even farther south to sunny and hot Fort Myers Beach, where we did pretty much nothing but shop at farmers markets, eat delicious home-cooked meals (and lots of fresh citrus), and adore PR constantly. I intended and pretended to do some garden planning, but I gave up after only a couple days. I realized it’ll likely be another five years before we go on another vacation, so I soaked up all the sun and quality time with my girls as I could get. Best decision I’ve made in a long time!

Our last night there, I had a serene dream of weeding the garden. Weeding may not sound too peaceful, but it was preventative weeding rather than emergency weeding – a big difference! I’m a couple of months ahead of last year on all my big winter tasks (seed order, organic certification paperwork, etc), so maybe staying ahead of the weeds won’t be just a dream this year! Perhaps the warm weather inspired it, or maybe it was the anticipation of returning home to the season ahead of us. Either way, it got me wicked excited to get my hands in the dirt and to fill y’alls bags full of delicious organic veggies again!

But I’m not just invading your inbox to gloat about our fun in the sun. Drum roll please…ever since Jeff started Potter Hill Farm 7 years ago, a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) has been in its future, but the timing hasn’t been right. Now that I’m going into my third year, I feel the time is finally right to add a CSA, and conveniently Friday is National CSA Sign-Up Day!

If you’re unfamiliar with the CSA concept, it is a direct relationship between our farm and you as a customer and community member. The upfront expenses of running a farm are steep, while veggies are a labor of love and patience. CSA members purchase a “share” of the harvest in advance of the growing season. This helps provide the farm with the capital needed early in the year to buy feed, seeds, compost, supplies, and pay for labor. In return, members receive a weekly “share” of the farm’s harvest – fresh, top quality, organic vegetables grown and harvested right here on our farm.

Please consider making a commitment to your health and supporting our farm! You can choose from a small and full-size share, and if you know anything about me, you know it’ll be a you-centric, flexible program. I’m even partnering with a local food blogger for simple ways to use your share. Pickup will be Saturdays (the Monday ordering system won’t change). Details as always can be found on the website. I’d LOVE to get my first 5 sign-ups by Friday, so please share this widely. And as always, reply to this email with any questions you may have. Thank you!

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Wild Weather Week

Happy New Year to you all! A newsletter wasn’t even on my radar, but with weather like this, I can’t pass up writing about my favorite topic. With the current tropical conditions, it seems like that brutal cold stretch is a distant memory. A memory I’d like to wipe clean from my mind. It seemed as if that bomb cyclone detonated right up here on the hill, with the fallout (wind) from the explosion cutting through the walls like butter. As I dreamed of a tin man and munchkins, I felt the house shaking and ready for takeoff. If you think I’m exaggerating, spend a windy night up here sometime. And then multiply that by 100!

Fortunately, the house stayed grounded and the worst inconvenience we endured were on again/off again frozen pipes for a week. Even more fortunately, those pipes only cracked and we don’t (currently) have a puddle in the basement. That, however, will change if we get the predicted 1.5″ of rain tonight on top of the large mounds of melting snow, although I’m much more concerned about what that amount of precipitation will do to our fields, which are still frozen solid. With no where to soak in, that water will run on down the hill with our topsoil along for the ride.

If we extrapolate the weather from the first full week of the year, we’re in for a wild ride in 2018. Indeed, it seems the only thing more erratic than our president right now is the weather. For the record, in this wacky week of records, consider the following;
-it’s currently 23 degrees warmer here than in Houston, TX right now
-Just 5 days ago, we set a record low of -9 degrees
-We just set a record high of 62 degrees today

In case you’ve been wondering what we’ve been up to on the farm besides fretting about the weather, below are some pictures to give you an idea. And planning. Lots of planning. And lots of Paddy Rose. Stay tuned to hear all about our big plans for 2018. And more pictures of PR!

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Encore Harvest

I’ve been hearing your chants of ‘one more week, one more week’ in my head all week. Or maybe it’s just the end of a long season and I’m deliriously hearing voices. Either way, we harvested all day today in preparation for the grand finale to a fine 2017 season. Sweet baby kale, gorgeous gourmet baby carrots, and (almost) unlimited savory spinach, along with some other treats I’m selfishly keeping to myself. But you guys, those carrots…I ate 6 of them after dinner tonight. I’m sure they taste better when you work so hard to get them out of the ground, but they’re the best Potter Hill carrots I’ve ever eaten – and that’s a downright bold statement.

Typically we wait until Monday morning to harvest so that everything is super fresh. However, with the impending snow and cold headed our way, I wasn’t sure we’d be able to get anything out of the ground come Monday. And I guess fresh is relative anyway – three day old veggies from the farm is a good two weeks fresher than anything you’ll get in the grocery store.

Including the storage crops still for sale, it’s not a bad haul for the first week of December. Add a high tunnel to the mix next year and we’ll still be in full-swing right up through Christmas and hopefully beyond. Speaking of swings, those lettuce heads from Upswing Farm were a yuge hit and will be back again this week. They will be full-sized heads this week, so order accordingly. Cheese and chocolates are available again as well. Stock up for the holidays!

Pickup Procedures:
Put your orders in online before 10am Monday. We’ll have your order available for you to pick-up from 4-7pm Monday on the farm at 64 Potter Hill Rd in Grafton. Pickups are in the long white garage on the left across from the big red barn at the crest of the hill.

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Last Call?

Hey y’all – I’m highly confident and somewhat certain that this is definitely, possibly our last week, maybe.  But if it is, what an epic last week it will be! I’m pulling out all the stops to make sure you have a delicious and nutritious start to December to make up for the rest of the month. Are you ready for this? We have:
-LETTUCE is BACK. My friend is (still) killing it over at Upswing Farm in Ashland, and has extra lettuce and kale to go along with our killer spinach. Go green!
-Meats: Have you seen Jeff’s winter setup for his pastured pigs? I know from experience, it’s not easy being that generous to your animals. Despite your best intentions, if you give them an inch, they will take a mile. I can guarantee, these are the happiest (and tastiest) pigs in the Northeast. His availability sheet is here – email him directly at info@shortcreeknh.com to order.
Cheese: Award-winning cheese. Enough said.
Chocolates: Sarah has some great new stocking stuffers up (if you can manage not to eat them before Christmas).
-Certified organic, locally grown siracha and salsas (what?!) First come first served, not on our website.
-Apples (conventionally grown) from Foppemas – Excellent dual-purpose Mutsus and Empire apples.
-Oh, and I almost forgot all of our awesome veggies. Carrots, celeriac, squash, beets, onions – all of these will keep until March…stock up before it’s gone!

Pickup Procedures:
Put your orders in online before 10am Monday. We’ll pick it fresh Monday morning and have your order available for you to pick-up from 4-7pm Monday on the farm at 64 Potter Hill Rd in Grafton. Pickups are in the long white garage on the left across from the big red barn at the crest of the hill.

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Taking Stock and Stocking Up

I keep getting  the question of how much longer we’ll continue with the pickups. Short answer – until we run out of sweet delicious carrots and the rest of the stock of veggies we have stored in April’s basement! My gut tells me it will just be one more week after this one. But then again, the spinach is looking fantastic and we’re actually just about to start harvesting from the next planting (a very late, optimistic “why not” planting). So who knows….does that clear things up? Either way, time to start stocking up!

It’s always hard to pull the plug on a season, but sometimes you get subtle reminders that maybe, just maybe, it’s time. Like Monday, after our big Thanksgiving pickup, I found this in our mailbox – the first seed catalog for 2018! While attempting to keep my mind on the task at hand, I find myself daydreaming about big plans for the future. And what a great question on the front – certainly an off-season newsletter subject! Short answer…I grow for the cutie pictured above with the huge grin on her face while eating a carrot almost as big as she is that I pulled from the clean organic dirt a few minutes prior which wasn’t sprayed with pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, or any other type of ‘cides. Why do you grow?

Pickup Procedures:
Put your orders in online before 8am Monday. We’ll pick it fresh Monday morning and have your order available for you to pick-up from 4-7pm Monday on the farm at 64 Potter Hill Rd in Grafton. Pickups are in the long white garage on the left across from the big red barn at the crest of the hill.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Future Farmer

They grow up so fast!

I can’t say I’m typically a big holiday person. Many of them seem forced or hyper-commercialized. However, I deeply connect with Thanksgiving for obvious reasons…I have so much to be thankful for and I’m obsessed with great food. One big goal I had for the season was to have something good for you to add to your Thanksgiving meal. It’s certainly not a given considering our unpredictable and sometimes brutal weather. But I’m proud and so very thankful to provide you with a long list of no-spray, diligently tended and hand-picked organic veggies! Your two options for stocking up with our veggies are via our usual online ordering system for on-farm pickup Monday (link above), OR you can come see us tomorrow at the Shrewsbury one-day Winter Farmer’s Market from 2:30-6:30 at Oak Middle School.

As an extra bonus, there will be cheese available for sale at the Monday pickup from our friends at Couet Farm and Fromagerie! Whether you need just a single block, a gift basket, or a whole cheese platter for your holiday meals, they have you covered. If you’ve never tried their delicious cheeses, now is your chance as they will be joining us from 4-6pm with samples. And, as always, Anna Banana will be dropping off chocolates  and has some boxes that would be a great gift for any host!

I hope y’all have a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with great food and even better company!

Pickup Procedures:
Put your orders in online before 8am Monday. We’ll pick it fresh Monday morning and have your order available for you to pick-up from 4-7pm Monday on the farm at 64 Potter Hill Rd in Grafton. Pickups are in the long white garage on the left across from the big red barn at the crest of the hill.

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Under Cover

Nature, and specifically veggies, can do some amazing things. Our first real frost of the season Wednesday night was also a hard freeze – I watched my weather app with dismay as it dropped below the predicted low of 31 already at 7pm. By then it was far too late to cover anything, and by the morning it was 23 degrees and we had some frozen greens. Amazingly, both the frozen lettuce (above) and spinach (below) thawed out and went on their business of being delicious food for you and me like nothing happened!

Speaking of 23 degrees, that’s the temp as I write this and free-falling, where it will stop, no one knows. I’ve removed the “hardy but not tundra-hardy” items from the list in preparation of a low of 20. If we hit 14, which is one of the predictions I saw, the list may need further revisions. We spent the afternoon getting the most near and dear to my heart under cover – spinach, baby lettuce, and spicy mix. Meanwhile kale laughs at 14 degrees like it’s an awkward boy band going through puberty, so I’m fairly confident we’ll at least have those in the greens department. Either way, we have some pretty stellar roots right now with our rainbow and orange carrots the star of the show. And thine eyes do not deceive you – we picked a bunch of heirloom tomatoes and sweet peppers Wednesday afternoon, and just in time too as the plants are deader than a doornail now. There are only two more Mondays before Thanksgiving, so it’s time to stock up!

Pickup Procedures:
Put your orders in online before 8am Monday. We’ll pick it fresh Monday morning and have your order available for you to pick-up from 4-7pm Monday on the farm at 64 Potter Hill Rd in Grafton. Pickups are in the long white garage on the left across from the big red barn at the crest of the hill.

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Loads of Treats

This house has been here for 247 years, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t going to make it through Sunday night. You know it’s a bad storm when the neighbor’s wind sock gets shredded in the wind – it’s a wind sock! A proper thunderstorm conjures up fond memories of summers back in Ohio, but the wind up here is unsettling, I think because of how persistent it is. The rain finally stopped after a mere 3.5″, but the winds continued through Monday afternoon. I spent the whole windy day feeling unnerved and in a bit of a haze. Fortunately April picked up the slack and got us through another busy Monday harvest. I guess it could have been much worse – the wind ripped a few metal panels and boards off a couple of our barns that were surely not built to last 247 years. But we had power through the whole storm and the house remained fully intact to see another 90,155 days or so (hopefully). Meanwhile, guess what’s howling outside right now as I type this!

After all the dust settled, our little native pollinator (not a bumblebee!) had a wonderful time running around South Street on Halloween. Fortunately she hasn’t discovered candy yet, so she had to settle for some treats fresh from the garden. And popcorn.

Paddy Rose’s Recommended Garden Treats This Week:
-Apples: So sweet and so ugly, just like her daddy. PR eats at least one of these a day.
-Heirloom tomatoes: Uh, yea…November tomatoes. Gotta get you some of those before PR eats them all!
-Spinach: We’ve begun picking our winter spinach variety and it’s even better than the summer variety, if that’s possible.
-Rainbow and orange carrots: We just started picking the next planting of carrots – they’re delicate, gorgeous and getting sweeter with each frost.  It turns out that planting is all orange, so I must have ran out of rainbow seed. But don’t panic, we still have loads of rainbow carrots (pictured below) that will be sold loose from now on instead of bunched.

Also, you can order cheese, chocolates, and meat this week as well. Cheese and chocolates can be ordered directly on our website, while you need to email Jeff to order meat. You can pick everything up right here on the farm during our usual Monday pickup times.

Pickup Procedures:
Put your orders in online before 8am Monday. We’ll pick it fresh Monday morning and have your order available for you to pick-up from 4-7pm Monday on the farm at 64 Potter Hill Rd in Grafton. Pickups are in the long white garage on the left across from the big red barn at the crest of the hill.